Unseen Dangers: What You Should Know About Election Cyber Security

September 15, 2016
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Election Cyber Security: The Lay of the Land

This November’s election cycle is shaping up to be the most tumultuous in recent history. With a public already on edge, it must confront another, possibly more significant problem, greater than the polarization of political views in this country. The issue at hand is the security and integrity of the vote, or in other words, election cyber security.election cyber securityAlthough our government tends to lag behind private enterprise in the adoption of new technologies, government at all levels has generally embraced the promise of computers and the internet as a means of reducing transaction time and cost. However, just as private enterprise is waking up to the threat posed by cyber-criminals, Americans are waking up to the possibility that politics can be disrupted through unwanted and, sometimes even foreign interference.

Democratic National Committee’s Servers Hacked

Earlier this summer, it became apparent that The Democratic National Committee’s servers had been hacked and its documents stolen. The fall-out from the publication of those documents was swift. Just before the Democratic National Convention began, the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz was forced to resign and effectively given no role in the convention. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was also hacked, presumably by the same person or group.  

The documents leaked from the DCCC exposed its private political calculations and assessments as well as information on its donors.

Just recently, news circulated that the election systems in Illinois and Arizona were hacked, with voter information accessed and copied.

Further aggravating the situation is that these hacks do not seem to be merely the whims of precocious and unruly teenagers, as most would like to imagine, but, rather, are the work of Russian state-sponsored actions. The danger of such foreign meddling cannot be overstated. If the FBI announces the day after the November elections, that the process had been affected by a data breach or data editing making the vote unverifiable, the trust in our electoral system will surely be thrust into doubt.

Foreign Entity Cyber Threat

The most extreme case notwithstanding, is that the election can also be swayed by more subtle means. 

Without even needing to directly tamper with the vote, a foreign government can selectively release documents to the American public that would damage a political career of a politician opposed to that government.

Additionally, hackers might modify some data to make certain documents and emails appear more negative to the public, or hackers could insert fabricated documents into a leak of otherwise authentic documents.election cyber securityThe potential for sowing doubt and confusion into a country by hacking its politically sensitive systems is enormous and must be treated as a grave threat to our government. Due to both the complexity and newness of computerized systems and their vulnerabilities, it is difficult to grasp what is happening and its consequences. Moreover, the ability to penetrate systems anonymously and remotely makes legal enforcement extremely difficult.